Tyson Fury and Derek Chisora do their best to sell a fight nobody asked to see, writes Elliot Worsell
ON the day an unsteady and dazed Liz Truss decided to throw in the towel before the bell to end round one, having spent 44 days trying (and failing) to explain the unexplainable, the key players involved in making Tyson Fury vs. Derek Chisora III attempted to explain why it is the fight Great Britain needs in 2022.
To their credit, unlike Liz, they gave it a good go, too.
Frank Warren, the first to bat, chose to push the idea that Derek Chisora had been given the opportunity to fight Fury on December 3 essentially by default; which is to say, the promoter consulted BoxRec.com for a shortlist of alternative options, the majority of whom had conveniently either just fought, were scheduled to fight, or Fury had previously beaten. After that came the turn of another Hall-of-Fame promoter, Bob Arum, who decided to play the history card, referencing, specifically, the 1993 fight between Tommy Morrison, then the WBO heavyweight champion, and Britain’s Michael Bentt, an unheralded underdog who that night spoiled Morrison’s plans (and hopes of fighting Lennox Lewis in a 10-million-dollar payday) by flattening the American inside a round.
The two fighters, meanwhile, presented their cases with more emotion (if less desperation) than the event’s promoters. Chisora, next up, spoke of his desire to take what Fury had – namely the world heavyweight title – and make it his, and also mentioned possessing a “black belt in crazy”. This then led to the Londoner threatening to phone Eddie Hearn, Warren’s rival UK promoter, to ask for tips on how to fill the 70,000-seater Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in December, which, it goes without saying, wasn’t well received.
As for Fury, the last of the protagonists to take the mic, he did the best job of selling – that is, selling himself more than the fight – but still it was difficult to take seriously the suggestion that either (a) Fury vs. Chisora III is a vehicle to drive the UK’s troubled economy as opposed to a consequence of an inability to travel overseas and (b) Chisora could knock him out if he, Fury, gets careless and caught clean.
There were, after all, few signs of that being a possibility back when they first fought in 2013, never mind when Fury whitewashed Chisora a year later in the rematch. It’s hard to therefore envisage a scenario in which Chisora, now 38, is suddenly able to have success against Fury, twice the fighter he was nine years ago.
Indeed, for as hard as Fury tried to sell this third fight, the more he did, the more it became clear just how unusual it was for us to be witnessing a fighter championing the qualities of his opponent in order to have people care about a fight between them. Normally, of course, when a fight sells itself, all we get from the two men or women involved are insults and boasts, with them both typically looking to denigrate the abilities of their opposite number to perhaps gain a mental edge. Here, though, quite the opposite was true. Here, Fury, 32-0-1 (23), knew as well as anyone that the only way of making this third fight remotely appealing was to recast Chisora, 33-12 (23), as a man nobody had ever before seen, almost washing from history their previous two encounters in the process.
“There’s a lot of money to say don’t do this fight, and I mean a lot of money, a truck-load,” Fury told Boxing News. “However, I can’t be dictated to by money or anybody. I do what I want to do. I’m going to fight Derek Chisora, who is more than capable of fighting me for a third time, and I’m looking forward to the challenge because I believe Derek is one of the best available challengers in the division (heavyweight) today.
“People keep going on about (Oleksandr) Usyk but why couldn’t Usyk do anything with Chisora (when they met in 2020)? I ask you that question. I watched that fight and thought it was very close; nip and tuck. It could have gone either way. It could have been a draw. He couldn’t do anything with Chisora and I’m going to splatter him. So how is he (Usyk) going to do anything with me?
“We’ve seen Carlos Takam give (Anthony) Joshua a good fight (in 2017). Ten rounds. The referee stopped the fight because Takam was coming on a little bit. Chisora bowled him over, out cold in eight rounds (in 2018). So I don’t want to hear people saying to me Chisora is a ‘bum’ or he’s this or that. Because if he’s a ‘bum’, so is Usyk and the rest of them. He’s every bit as good because it was a 50/50 fight (between Usyk and Chisora). Although he lost on a split decision, or a majority (it was actually unanimous), I believe he did enough to either get a draw or nick it by a round.
“I don’t need to sell Chisora to anybody. You go to a bar and order a bottle of vodka and we know what we’re getting. When we down it, we know what the outcome’s going to be. Chisora comes, his name’s ‘War’, and he always brings the fire.”
Clunky analogies aside, if you spin a yarn long enough and repeat a nickname or mantra often enough, it all starts to become believable. In fact, while watching today’s press conference in London, one could easily get lost in it all and begin to imagine how these two heavyweights’ styles will look in the ring, only to then no sooner remember that this is something we have already seen, of course, not once but twice. Gone in an instant, at that point, is any intrigue. Gone, too, is the very thing that fuels so many of the best fights: the element of mystery.
“We knew the (Fury) fight was happening when I left the arena with (Kubrat) Pulev (in July),” Chisora said to BN. “There were so many complications with the contract for (Fury and) AJ (Anthony Joshua); the promoters, and the sponsorship, and this and that. People always think making fights is one-way traffic. But it’s not. It’s such a headache. Fighters want to fight but the people who make the headaches are the managers and promoters. It’s difficult. When I was doing this contract over the last two weeks, it was a f**king headache. It was stressing me out.”
Even so, the good thing about Fury vs. Chisora III is that, as far as heavyweight fights go, it’s actually one of the easier ones to make. Not only that, it’s a fight more concerned with content than competition, which, rather depressingly, makes it also very on-brand for boxing in 2022.
Together, so large are their personalities, Fury and Chisora will always make for good soundbites and clips but that doesn’t necessarily mean their respective skills will make for competitive action in a boxing ring. Asked, indirectly, if that even matters, Fury said: “I believe that whoever I fight it will be a successful promotion because I’ve earned the right to do that. I’ve battled stuff in the past, I’ve come back, and I’ve been such an inspiration for other people. You earn your respect off people. Respect is not given, it’s earned, and over a 14-year professional career I’ve earned that respect.”
One of many accusations levelled at this fight is that it is merely a business arrangement between two friends. It wouldn’t be happening, the sceptics say, if the two boxers didn’t have history and a connection and if Fury, the one with all the power, wasn’t in such a charitable mood.
“I wouldn’t say we’re pals after he bet against me when I fought Dillian Whyte and recently took Joshua’s side,” said Fury, refuting the suggestion. “Before that, we were quite friendly. I went over to Monaco to support him (against Agit Kabayel in 2017) and took him out to dinner in London before.
“After the two fights we had, we had respect for each other. But then I saw him picking (Deontay) Wilder (against Fury), and picking Dillian Whyte, and saying, ‘If the Joshua fight happens, Joshua will knock him out.’ I’m thinking, What? This is the same guy who turned up at my after-party for the Dillian Whyte fight.
“It is what it is. Things happen and people happen. At the end of the day, I’m happy I can give him and his family a couple of million quid to go towards their fund, his retirement fund, and make his life a little bit easier. Because he hasn’t had it easy, has he? He’s had a fantastic career, Derek. Whether he’s won them all, or lost them all, he’s made plenty of money and seems in a healthy state of mind. You can only be happy for him. What would he be doing in Zimbabwe right now (if he hadn’t become a boxer)? At the minute he’s fighting on the biggest stage in the capital. Fair play to him. He changed his stars.”
This respect goes both ways, too, which, as well as oddly endearing, probably points to six weeks of forced animosity (needed to sell something that is an otherwise tough sell) followed by the sharing of Five Guys burgers in the changing room after the fight.
“There’s respect there and I also want to take what’s his and make mine,” said Chisora, he of the post-fight Five Guys tradition. “So when I go in there, I won’t respect him. I’m going to go in there with the intention to take what’s his and make it mine.
“I’m going to stop him. I’m going to knock him out. This time I’m going to fight a different fight. We’re more grown up. We’re more mature, exciting. We both have families now and I’m excited for it.”
Along those same lines, hinting that changes or a lack thereof could somehow deliver to this fight an intrigue it lacks, Fury added, “I think I’ve changed my style, obviously, and Chisora pretty much does the same thing he’s always done. I wouldn’t say he has changed his style since 2014. He’s always coming forward looking for hooks.
“When he fought me the second time he was in fantastic shape. That’s the best shape I’ve ever seen him in. But I don’t think he’s got better. I’ll do what Pulev and (Joseph) Parker and Usyk couldn’t do to him. I’ll knock him out and will show him what it’s like to be in there with a 19-stone man who can punch.”
On reflection, it was only when the two fighters were dragged away from the circus and the push to sell on Thursday afternoon that the human side of both wrestled back power from the characters they had earlier been encouraged to play. In Chisora’s case, this led to a somewhat touching moment when he put the fight and its value in its true perspective, ignoring for a second the money on offer, as well as his own reputation as a man who fights only for financial reward.
“Let’s be honest, it’s a big stadium to sell,” he said, referring to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which both he and Fury aim to fill on December 3. “We’re coming up to Christmas and the cost of living is very hard right now. Things are not well for others. Trying to sell the stadium and sell pay-per-views is going to be so difficult. People are struggling out there. There are so many foodbanks.
“It all depends on how much the tickets are (as to whether it sells out or not). For me to sit here and try to sell it, and say this is going to be amazing, I can’t do that. All I can say is that it will be a f**king great fight. But I cannot tell a man to take money he might spend on his kid’s Christmas present to come watch me fight. Right now, things are hard. It doesn’t matter who you are. We are all feeling it.”
Chisora’s message was in the end a simple, heartfelt one. It was also one that succeeded in cutting through all the promotional hype of which he had earlier been a (perhaps reluctant) part.
“Spend your money on your kids,” Chisora said. “Don’t spend your money on me and Tyson. I don’t want to see that. I want you to spend money on me knowing your kids have got Christmas presents and everything else they need.”